Professor Deirdre Murphy describes student work from her drawing class on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, at Mountaintop Campus. Murphy is a visiting Assistant Professor in the art, architecture and design department. (Holly Santero/B&W Staff)

Deirdre Murphy brings interdisciplinary art education to Lehigh


Deirdre Murphy, a new assistant professor in Lehigh’s art, architecture and design program, takes a different approach to her teaching by integrating science into her drawing, painting and studio practice classes this semester.

“She has a strong exhibition record, experience, teaching background, portfolio and student work,” Department Chair Anna Chupa said.

Murphy earned her master of fine arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her bachelor of fine arts degree from Kansas City Art Institute.

She has previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.

“She has a tremendous reputation among her students,” said Jason Travers, a professor in the art, architecture and design department. “A lot of my fellow colleagues who’ve worked with her say that she’s amazing in the classroom setting.”

A’Taja Jackson, ‘20, an art and psychology double major, is enrolled in Studio Workshop with Murphy this semester.

“She has a lot of energy and shows a lot of passion when she’s teaching,” Jackson said. “She pushes us and keeps us engaged in the classroom.”

Murphy has always had a passion for science and art, hoping to inspire students who have creative and academic interests.

She wants her students to use their voices to express an appreciation for art.

“No matter what the student’s discipline or declared major is, I would hope that he or she will walk away from my classes with a visual curiosity and the confidence that they can make art,” Murphy said. 

As an art major, Jackson looks for professors who encourage her to use art not only as a freedom of expression, but also as a tool to look at the world from different perspectives. 

She said Murphy encourages students to take risks with their work.

“I really appreciate that Professor Murphy doesn’t stick to the rules of art, but pushes us to create art without worrying about the end result,” Jackson said. “One of the things she always tells us is to ‘just do.’”

Murphy believes art and creativity isn’t only useful in a studio setting, but also in the real world.

“Seeing the world through the lens of art can really help you with problem solving, because being a critical or visual problem solver is a real skill and asset that will benefit students no matter what they do,” Murphy said.

Travers also said a lot of students who aren’t art or design majors enroll in his classes.

He said many of the students in his design course study material science, biology and earth and environmental science, but have creative interests.

“I think they’re really intrigued by how she integrated science as an aesthetic design element,” Travers said. “It’s nice for our interdisciplinary students to get a chance to work with someone in a creative field who also shares a similar level of interest in science and technology.”

Murphy wants to use her experience to help students develop professional skills in the studio setting, having previously completed multiple residencies and exhibits.

She said wants to bring the life skills of being an entrepreneur to Lehigh’s art, architecture and design program because professional artists have to know how to market themselves.

She emphasized her drive to give students opportunities to practice writing artist statements, craft resumes, secure internships and find residencies and grants.

Murphy said students will leave Lehigh with strong portfolios and the skills necessary to have a gallery to display their work.

“No matter what the student’s discipline or declared major is, I would hope that he or she will walk away from my classes with a visual curiosity and the confidence that they can make art,” she said. 

Murphy said with her passion for science and art, she hopes to inspire students to use art as a way to nurture their academic endeavors.

She’s working to create a green space that is chemical-free and eco-friendly so students can utilize a studio for print-making or painting without the hazardous materials. 

“She’s different from the professors that I’ve had in the past,” Jackson said. “I really enjoy having her as my professor.”

Chupa said Murphy brings a lot of experience in drawing, painting and print-making, in particular, green methods without toxic solvents and ink.

Murphy is involved with many upcoming projects for the art, architecture and design program and said she feels welcomed by the Lehigh community.

“We’re all really excited and fortunate her to have here because of the energy she brings, not only to her own work, but to her teaching, which is known to inspire students,” Travers said. “I think it’s really important to have a figure that gets students excited about art.”

Murphy currently has an exhibition titled “Oculus” at the Esther Klein Gallery in Philadelphia, inspired by looking at viruses through microscopes. The artist talk and closing reception for “Oculus” is on Sept. 26th from 4:30-7:30 p.m.

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